aka: A beginner’s guide to making a fool of yourself while having a great time trying out a new-to-you activity.
The day was sunny and blue, perfect for loading up the Jeep for the quick hour drive to a local, super family-friendly, ski-mountain. Since we always love a good deal and we've never skied Titus Mountain in nearby Malone, when the North Country Chamber offered one of their Ski Day deals, we had to try it out. (Insider's Tip: you don't have to belong to a chamber to take them up on their great offers. This one was awesome, just $50 for all-day lift ticket and rentals! How could anyone pass that up? Next up is a day at Whiteface - sign up soon!) Titus also has amazing online pre-sale deals, make sure you check them out at least a day before you head to the slopes.
Now, I should point out right away that one of the reasons we have never ventured to Titus for skiing is my lack of downhill skill, and my abundance of clumsiness. I actually haven't downhilled since before my 5-year-old was born, and even then it had only been a handful of times over the course of a decade. I tend to stick to cross-country skiing and things that don't require swinging off the ground at great heights. Today, Greg is my only cohort as I thought it best to leave the child at home as I took on this challenge. And, while he doesn't hit the slopes that often, he is certainly not a beginner and does not share my jitters.
Here are the top 5 concerns running through my head, and intermittently being blurted out, as we traveled the back roads on the way to conquer my fear:
- 1. I will not be able to walk in ski boots. Stupid, right? But seriously, I remember them being very awkward and the idea of falling down a flight of stairs before I have even stepped into my skis does cross my mind. (Yes, this is something that may or may not have happened to me in the past.)
- 2. I do not know how to ski. Well, I know how to ski - a little, but I tend toward the dramatic and I don't know if the "riding a bike" analogy applies to skiing, so just go with that first statement.
- 3. More important than the last statement: I do not know how to stop!! This is really the main thought that has been plaguing me. I mean, I can stop when I am prepared to stop, but what if I am happily skiing along and a small child falls directly in front of me and I crush them?
- 4. I have always been nervous about getting on the chairlift. What if I don't fit? What if I trip? What if I fall off? What if I start to drop my pole... what if??
- 5. This is the big one (want to take a guess?): Exiting the chairlift. I am terrified. Unreasonably so. I have been on enough lifts to know how they work. I have never fallen. I know the protocol. Yet I still feel my heart racing every time I think of getting off of an unfamiliar chair. What if it's a big drop? What if there's someone I can't avoid? What if, horror of horrors, I fall and they have to stop the lift-line and I hold up hundreds of impatient skiers and... oh, just the thought makes me want to bag this adventure.
And, then we arrive... I dawdle a bit before getting out, and then suck it up and put on my game face. I can do this. Right!?
Pretend You Know What You're Doing
We find the ticket and rental office, quickly fill out the necessary paperwork and are directed to a different part of the room where we are issued boots and then suited up with skis. Then it's time to pick out our poles. This was a bit disconcerting to me, I didn't want to pick the wrong size - what if they were too long and tripped me up or they made me fall off the lift??
I decided it was worth further investigation, and I went to talk to the friendly guys in rentals. They helpfully explained that when held upside down with the handle on the ground, and your hand under the basket, your arm should rest at a right angle. Got it... Yeah, that's what I figured, just wanted to make sure you guys knew what you were doing ;)
I carefully, very carefully, navigate the stairs outside. We step into our skis (again, I take a little extra time to look around, take pictures, avoid actually skiing) and it's time. But wait, I nearly gasp in horror, we have to ski down a little hill to get to the lift - in front of everyone!!! What if I fall right now? Isn't there a place to practice, in private? WHY did we not walk to the lift before putting on skis, waaaaaaa. At this point, Greg looks at me and says something to the effect of: "You're going to have to ski at some point today, wouldn't you rather try on this little hill before we actually get off a lift on top of a bigger one?" Fine, fine. Here we go. No time to think, and what's this? I did it! I made it to the lift, I didn't crash into anyone, I can do this!
And, wait for it... I got ON the lift without causing any hold-ups or major damage. Things just keep getting better!
Hey, This Rocks!
Next up: exiting the lift. My heart is racing, I am trying not to let Greg know exactly how nervous I am, but as we get higher and higher up the mountain I am pretty sure my senseless babbling is giving me away. The sign looms closer to raise the bar, and I'm freaking out internally. I CAN do this. And, it's a bit rough, but I do. I DO it, I get off the lift, figure out how to control my skis and take a deep breath. Woo hoo.
Now, we take a few moments to check out the gorgeous view, map out our plan of action, and then take our first green-circle run. I LOVE it!! Titus is awesome! There are enough people to know that you are not alone, however the trails are spacious and open. I am secure in the knowledge that even if I tumble, it may go unnoticed by the masses, and I won't be causing any chaos. No wonder this is such a family-friendly mountain. It's the perfect place to learn!
So, we take a few more runs and I'm feeling a bit more comfortable. The shock of the unknown has worn off. I'm ready to go a bit further and try a new section of the mountain. We head over to the Upper Mountain which entails a cross under the main road through a tunnel to hit our destination. Yet another first.
Reality Hits. Humor Ensues. Life Goes On.
The lift at Upper Mountain seems a bit more crowded, and we have a few minutes to talk to the folks around us. Everyone seems to be enjoying this awesome day, and they have come from all over (Albany, Canada, Ogdensburg) to take advantage of the great rates and easy access to Titus. I am finally starting to relax and just have fun.
We get on and head to the top of the mountain. Everything is looking good, and then... I see the exit point, it seems a bit more crowded (ie., I will have to navigate), then I watch a guy take a fall, then Greg says something about it being a steeper drop (I think he is talking about our exit, he is not). Then it's suddenly time, we go to push off and I see people and a child (yikes, a helpless child - that I could potentially crush) and I forget everything I have relearned this morning. I fall. My first fall of the day. Yes, they stop the lift (I hold up thousands of angry masses, in my head). I get up as quickly as I can, and navigate toward the top of the next run. We take a few minutes for me to calm my nerves and try to regain my dignity. I mean, come on, my first fall and it's not even a good story. I freaked out and took a dive, a dive off the chair. Not even down a hill! Luckily I am a master of laughing at myself, and we are back on trail momentarily. This is an AWESOME trail, wide, great views, a few good beginner dips, fun. We decide to go for it again.
Just as we were getting on the chair, I noticed I was a foot or two ahead of Greg. No biggie, right? Wrong. Somehow I only managed to catch the edge of the seat. And, being the very graceful girl that I am, I held on - until the next group had loaded and we were above the 'do not cross in front of here' gate. And then, I fell OFF the lift. Yup. I am that girl. I am the one that actually fell getting ON the lift. Yup, the lift stopped - again. Yup, I lost all dignity and was laughing hysterically and joking back and forth with the crowd about being a beginner. Everyone was totally generous, encouraging: "we all had to learn at some point!", "welcome!", "best fall of the day." So that was it? I fell and nobody died, nobody threw angry looks my way, the world didn't stop - even if the lift did. Wow. I love this friendly crowd!
Notice anything unusual about the above pic? How about the fact that I am not forcing Greg into another selfie? Because I am ALONE! As is the poor guy behind me as he got displaced from his group by my shenanigans.
Now, I have to ride to the top by myself and exit by myself. But at this point, I've accomplished just about everything I feared, so what the heck? I do it. And I don't fall (getting on or off). Greg is waiting and I am laughing and relaxed. We pause again to take in the view and then head down the mountain. And yes, I insist on conquering this lift - so we try it one last time, with no mishaps.
Late Lunch, Random Sightings, and Other Interesting Things
We grabbed a couple of burgers and drinks for a late lunch and then settled at an outdoor picnic table to enjoy the sunshine, live music, and take in the sights. Of course, we weren't done hitting the trails - Titus offers skiing into the evening, so the impending dark isn't reason to pack it up. We still hadn't been to Moon Valley, the lit night-skiing section of the mountain, and we wanted to see what the trails over that way looked like.
As we headed out for a few more runs, I had the camera at the ready and managed to catch a few more pics of the mountain. I know I like to have a feeling for what I am getting myself into - before I go someplace new. So, if you are unfamiliar with Titus, here is what you can expect:
Successfully (if not gracefully) Surviving A First
It's getting colder and later, and I am pretty spent from my first day of downhill skiing. We finish up a couple of runs - yes, I even moved on to do a few intermediate blue trails - and survived (though there was one little mishap where we took a wrong turn and I ended up going slowly down inch by inch, but hey, I made it!). It was an absolutely fabulous first experience at Titus. We can not wait to return! And, next time I will bring Oliver, my biggest fear with him: he'll be better and faster than me within hours :)
I've learned a valuable lesson: face your fears. What's the worst that can happen? In today's case, almost every single thing I feared happened (I even ended up taking a slide in my boots as we went to bring back our gear), and you know what - it was an awesome memorable day despite (or perhaps because of) it! I see many trips to this great family-friendly mountain in our future. And, hey, I didn't even really touch on the Tubing Hill, guess I'll save that for another day :)
Staying in Saranac Lake this winter? Why not plan a day trip to Titus Mountain - tell them I sent you. It won't get you a discount, but it might get you a laugh. Happy trails!